How to See Fun as a Priority for Your Relationship

Investing in Fun for Better Relationships | Frock Files

A few weeks ago, we were watching a documentary called This Emotional Life in which psychologists pointed out that one of the driving factors of a successful marriage is having new, fun experiences together. This idea glued itself to the back of my mind, in part because I get so stuck on doing the same, comfortable things over and over again. Sometimes my desire to simplify creates a stagnancy that I have a hard time emerging from. It’s a little like finding just the right spot under the blankets in bed — cozy and comfortable for awhile, but eventually you need to get out of bed to have some coffee.

The Uncomfortable Zone

So last weekend, even though I was a little bit anxious about it, James and I headed out to a St. Patrick’s Day party his friends were throwing. A lot of things got my stomach knotted up about it — there would be a lot of new people, it was at a dive bar, I can’t really drink much anyway. But I was in once James mentioned the word “dancing,” which, aside from weddings, we have rarely gone out to do together.

The DJ played everything from Brick House to Ke$ha, which was appropriate since the crowd ranged in age from 21 to 85. While on one side of the dance floor a group of girls could do back bends, on the other side an elderly couple was dancing/supporting one another. There were good dancers and terrible dancers, and no one cared because it wasn’t about that — it was just about having a good time. And we did. It was so much fun.

The Pursuit of Imperfection

What I realized is that I struggle with trying new things and having fun because they don’t seem to contribute to any of my missions. I’m not sure if I’ll be any good at them, and if I’m not, then isn’t it a waste of time? Mel Schwartz wrote about this phenomenon in an article called “To Excel or to Have Fun? That Is the Question” for Psychology Today. He writes:

When high levels of performance become the goal— and simple playful pleasure is no longer desirable, let alone permissible— I fear that we are falling into a pathological condition.

Will a night of dancing grow my blog? Help me build up the university’s social media? Add to my bank account? No.

But what it did do is contribute to my overall state of being and the general happiness of our relationship. Having fun together makes it easier to see things from each other’s perspectives. It makes us feel closer. It creates a lightness that allows the little nagging responsibilities of our everyday lives be reduced to virtually nothing. Having fun makes the days feel full of possibility. It gives us something to look forward to. And in all these ways, even if we’re doing things imperfectly, if we’re having fun then we’re adding to the intangible but much more important growth of happiness.

Part of the problem, I think, is that James and I could have fun if someone locked us in a box together. We really just enjoy each other. So when we think about doing something out of the norm for the sake of fun, I tend to think, “But we’re already having fun!” Only, making that bit of extra effort to try new things adds a new level of depth to our connection, not just to each other but to all the people we care about, too.

So this weekend, take some time to laugh. Have fun. Give yourself permission to indulge in something that won’t benefit your career or your blog or your status, but will make you happy in a way that will resonate through the coming week. Make a deposit into your happiness bank!

P.S. A simple way to have a fresh perspective on your day.


Valentine’s Day 2014: Love Yourself

Love Yourself This Valentine's Day | Frock Files

It was really no surprise that I woke up last weekend with a swollen throat and a runny nose, because since Christmas I’ve been going non-stop. With the new job, preparation and travel for Alt Summit, and several snow storms, it’s been a crazy couple of months and I knew that any moment my body was going to tell me to slow down. Forgetting to take my vitamins several days in a row didn’t help matters at all.

Over the years, James and I have become pretty adept at taking care of each other. We have very different “sick styles,” as I like to call them. He mostly wants to be left alone, while I seem to be in constant need of juice, tissues, and socks. Kona has largely taken over the issue of cold feet, as she seems to have picked up on my sick vibes and has spent most of the past few days on my feet.

But I think that what all of this has come down to is the need to take better care of myself. So while it’s the day before Valentine’s and we do have some special things planned for this weekend, I decided that I’d instead share some unexpected insight I’ve gained recently into staying healthy this year, physically, but also mentally and emotionally — in other words, loving yourself.

Self Love for Health

Turn Off.  Since I work in social media for a university and I also have my own social media for the blog, sometimes it seems like I’m in a constant social media tornado. But I found myself nodding as I read this interview that Gretchen Rubin conducted with Nir Eyal, in which Eyal says, “To me, the constant temptation to succumb to a mindless habit like checking email is a constant threat. I feel consistently happier when I successfully overcome habits I don’t want in my life and maintain focus on the things I want to accomplish.” Rubin also talks about scheduling time to be unscheduled in another post, which I found revolutionary! Taking time to restore your energy not only keeps you healthier, but it also ensures that you’re on top of your game when you do interact with other people.

Detoxify. I don’t really mean going on a cleanse here, though I hear those are helpful too. Rather, I’m thinking of getting out of toxic relationships. In this Psychology Today article called “Getting Unstuck: The Toxic Relationship” Mark Banschick writes about toxic relationships that range from friendships to marriages. The other party may not even know they’re indulging in toxic behavior because they’re so deeply self absorbed, butyou’ll know because it always feels draining to be around that person. According to Sherrie Bourg Carter, these relationships can actually cause heart disease because they involve so much stress. It’s not necessarily your job to point out the behavior to the toxic person — but it is your job to decide to step away for your own health. By getting out of a toxic relationship, you free up time for people you really want to spend time with, which is a gift only you can give yourself.

(A great quote from the Buddha in this article: “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”)

Eat Often. Raise your hands if you get hangry. That’s right hungry + angry. I am quite a monster when I haven’t had enough to eat, so when I spotted this t-shirt on Etsy I knew that I needed one. Like scheduling time for yourself, I’ve also found it really helpful to plan my meals out ahead of time. Not only does it prevent me from getting grouchy; it also allows me to keep better track of my caloric intake and therefore manage my weight. Lately I’ve been bringing edamame, Laughing Cow cheese, and trail mix to work with me. I also discovered that my lunch is much more appealing when I don’t have to go through the extra step of microwaving it at lunchtime, so I bought a thermos, which allows me to dig right in the moment those hunger pangs arrive!

Here’s to loving yourself this Valentine’s Day — and all year long!

Dealing With Boastful People

When I moved back to Boston, I was excited to go back to my former hair stylist. I found that she — let’s call her Sonya — had moved to a salon on fashionable Newbury Street, so I went into the city just for my appointment. Almost as soon as I settled in to the chair, I remembered why I always used to feel wrung out after going to see her: Sonya had a very inflated sense of self.

Several times during that appointment she uttered the words, “I mean, I’m very good at what I do.” It made me feel so uncomfortable! What was I to say in response? I left the salon with a nice haircut and a vow to myself never to return to her chair.

Boastful behavior often stems from a place of insecurity. According to Psychology Today, a person may brag in hopes of leading others to think well of them. Everyone likes to brag a little — but cross the threshold and you run the risk of making the people around you roll their eyes. Hard.

The question is not if you’ll have to deal with a boastful person, but rather what to do when you encounter one.

Well, the good news is that you’re almost totally off the hook because, as Dr. Fredric Neuman points out, “Boasting is unpleasant to listen to: IT IS BECAUSE THE PERSON BOASTING IS NOT INTERESTED IN YOU.” So it doesn’t really matter what you say or do in response because, to the bragger, your reaction is basically just white noise.

You could try to bring this person’s attention to their bad behavior, but this could fuel even more narcissistic tendencies. You can walk away. Or, if you don’t have the luxury of choosing not to see this person any more, you can imagine yourself on a beach with an umbrella-adorned cocktail every time the braggart starts talking.

Do you encounter a lot of boastful behavior? What are your survival tips?

P.S. More tips on living a happier life.


Image by Kensie Kate

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